MESA, Ariz. -– If A’s lefty Sean Manaea does begin the season in the minors as expected, he’s already bulls-eyed a couple things he’ll be targeting for improvement.
Manaea knows he needs to get better on his defense coming off the mound and his pickoff throws, and he was getting advice from A’s ace Sonny Gray about fielding his position during Friday’s 11-3 loss against the Los Angeles Angels.
The 24-year-old fielded a bunt from Geovany Soto in the second inning and threw wildly down the line for an error, allowing a run to score. Soto probably had a single beat out even with a good throw.
“(Gray) was just telling me if he’s too close then just eat it,” Manaea said. “That’s something I definitely need to work on is my defense and pickoff throws, and just throws in general. It’ll come. It’s all a learning process. I just gotta take it one step at a time.”
Manaea executed a nice pickoff move later in the game, though Andrelton Simmons broke for second and beat Yonder Alonso’s throw from first for a stolen base. But Manaea has also uncorked two pickoff throws for errors this spring. An aggressive team on the bases like the Angels will take advantage of those weaknesses, so Manaea is wise to pick up what he can from Gray, one of the American League’s best fielding pitchers.
As for his day on the mound, Manaea gave up five runs (four earned) and seven hits over four innings. He issued four walks, and both the runs and the free passes were the most he’s allowed this spring. He wasn’t helped by a shaky defensive effort behind him, as the A’s committed four errors total.
In his first-ever battle with Angels star Mike Trout, Manaea gave up a first-pitch homer that Trout blasted over the center field wall in the first. When Trout stepped to the plate again in the second with a man on third and two outs, Manaea retired him on a soft comebacker.
“There’s a reason he’s one of the best players in the game,” Manaea said. “He makes adjustments and he (hurts you) if you make mistakes. Next time, whenever that is, I just gotta learn from what I saw today and hopefully better results come.”
NOTEWORTHY: Rich Hill said he came away feeling good following a five-inning stint in a minor league game, but he did give up five runs (four earned) with five walks.
“The first two innings didn’t go as well as I would have liked, but I finished strong,” Hill said. “The last three innings I was much more aggressive, a lot of swings and misses.”
His last spring outing is set for Wednesday’s Cactus League finale against the Arizona Diamondbacks.
PROSPECT WATCH: Catching prospect Bruce Maxwell drew the start and enjoyed a big day, homering in the third off Jered Weaver and throwing out three would-be base stealers. Maxwell, who was born in Germany, was away from the A’s for a period last week while playing for the German national team in a World Baseball Classic qualifier in Mexicali. Maxwell started at catcher for the Germans, who lost both their games in the double-elimination tournament.
He’s impressed Melvin to the point where the manager has said Maxwell would be a legitimate option if a catcher is needed from the minor league ranks during the season. In 11 games, Maxwell is hitting .278 with two homers and four RBI.
“When you have a guy behind the plate like that against a team that likes to run, it’s a big weapon to have,” Melvin said. “He had some really nice blocks today. He takes Weaver deep. He’s a guy that came into camp with a different mindset this year and it’s paying off.”
ODDS AND ENDS: Coco Crisp homered for the first time this spring, a solo shot off Weaver in the fifth. He’s hitting just .158, but his drive over the right field wall justified Melvin’s claim that the switch hitter is driving the ball better in batting practice from the left side. … Jed Lowrie went 2-for-3 and is hitting .469. … Fernando Rodriguez, John Axford and Ryan Madson all threw scoreless innings. Axford and Madson have yet to allow a run and Rodriguez’s ERA is 0.96.